Some of you may or may not know this but, I have read and studied the Bible, the Quran, the Book of Mormon, and various other ancient (aka sacred texts). Religion is something that absolutely fascinates me and it is also something that scares the heck out of me. The fascinating part is the various views on the nature of God and the scary part is the mindless dogma and violence that can result from an uneducated approach to those views. I have always believed that while it may not be necessary to go to the extent that I did with reading, everyone should at least know their own scriptures and the basic tenets of their religion. It is so common to see misquotes and uniformed ignorance with people on this topic. This is mainly because few people actual take the time to read for themselves and to me that makes them pretty bad followers of whatever religion they follow. How can someone be a good Jew if they have not read every single word of Torah at least once? How can someone be a good Christian if they have not read every word of the Bible at least once? How can someone be a good Muslim if they have not read every word of the Quran at least once? Especially since even reading them once is no where near enough.
Although I was raised a Christian (The Lutheran flavor) when I got older I became skeptical, almost slipping into the ignorance of atheism. I couldn’t make up my mind what to believe so I read any holy book I could find (some of them more than once) and after the last 5 years of studying, I find the peace and comfort that I’ve been looking for in Judaism. This awakening occured to me when I started studying Mystical Judaism (Kabbalah). Kabbalah (which is fascinating by the way) requires extensive knowledge of the Torah. So as I said in my last post, Torah is now what I spend most of my time studying.
The origin of humanity is a topic of much debate and multiple cosmogonies have been discovered and the Torah contains a blend of a few of them that have been masterfully woven into one. These cosmogonies are allegorical and have been interpreted throughout the centuries through various commentaries. It is my belief that the Christian view of them as being literally true is wrong but, I also realize that the core of that faith requires it. So my views may not sit well with them. Nevertheless, I base them on some very intense study of the texts themselves, various Rabbinic commentaries, the Talmud, and translational reference material.
It is my belief we were all created with 3 very special divine gifts:
- The Breath of Life
- Free Will
The Breath of Life, as its name implies, gives us life, a soul and it is the very sustaining essence of God within each and every one of us.
Free Will is the freedom that God gave each of us to choose for ourselves what our actions are and what kind of person we are. All of us have both light and dark, good and evil, within us and it is the choices we make that define what path we take and who we are.
Reason enables us to understand the differences between good and bad. It encourages the mind to seek and understand the nature of God and to discern the order and operation of nature. When employed correctly it gives us a moral compass that governs our free will and when properly followed will always lead to God.
How did we get these gifts?
One of the ways to study Torah is allegorically and another is personal application. In studying the allegory of Creation (yes, I believe the beginning of Genesis to be all allegory) I used my personal allegorical interpretation to develop some thoughts as to how these gifts were given to us as relates to the tale of Eve and the serpent in the garden.
The garden is symbolic of the paradise that one has in a spiritual sense when they are close to God. The serpent is symbolic of free will, except free will without the gift of Reason caused poor judgement and the selfish desire to be “like God”. The act of biting into the fruit was the introduction of the gift of Reason. It was only after Reason was introduced did Eve’s eyes “open” and she realized that she was “naked”. Naked meaning now fully accountable for her own actions and not capable of hiding who she was.
How does God respond?
With disappointment and then very quickly with love and compassion. It was never God’s intent to have a bunch of puppets that were under divine control. Free will comes with the risk of making both good and bad decisions even with the use of Reason. God curses the serpent because the serpent symbolized the use of free will to serve oneself which we know as selfishness. Mankind is then imbued with the pains and burdens of life but, then God quickly provides them with clothes to cover their nakedness. This is emblematic of how mankind, now having free will, reason and the breath of life – all gifts that come from God and when used in the “image” of God will provide man all that is needed to come close to Him. How do we act in God’s image? Those 10 little rules we have spoken of before.
And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. JPS
© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light